TORONTO -- Citing a desire to manage his unique workload, the Angels have decided to push Shohei Ohtani's next start back rather than have him pitch against the Yankees on Sunday, spoiling a highly-anticipated matchup between the two-way phenom and countryman Masahiro Tanaka. It's unclear when Ohtani will return to the mound, but he will still be available to hit in the interim.
"There's so much on his plate on what he has to do that we're going to push him back a little," manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday. "He's fine. Workload management. That's it."
General manager Billy Eppler said the Angels reached the decision on Wednesday, but he did not disclose the specifics of the timing. Ohtani was told not to throw his light bullpen session on Wednesday -- which he typically does four days before his starts -- but he did play catch on Thursday for the second consecutive day.
"I have the utmost respect for what pitchers do," Eppler said. "They are the most tired people when the game is over. You make 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120 explosions -- that is a lot, in my opinion. Then you add in cage work, [batting-practice] work and games, so on and so forth, there's a lot on this individual's plate. We're just trying to be mindful of that and understand where we are in the calendar, simple as that."
Ohtani, 23, has logged a 3.35 ERA over 40 1/3 innings this season, putting him on pace to throw about 120 innings in 2018. An ankle injury limited Ohtani to only 25 1/3 innings with the Nippon-Ham Fighters last year, and he never threw more than 160 2/3 innings in a single season in Japan.
Ohtani reiterated that he feels fine physically and said that he thinks the Angels might have wanted to give him a breather after he threw a career-high 110 pitches in his last outing against the Rays on Sunday.
"The body feels fine," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I'm guessing it's probably because I threw 110 pitches. They're trying to take it easy on me. I'm just going to do what I always do -- throw my bullpens, get ready for my next start."
Though the Angels have recently tumbled into an offensive rut, Eppler said the decision to push back Ohtani's turn was not motivated by a desire to keep his bat in the lineup. Ohtani is batting .319 with a .991 OPS, six home runs and 19 RBIs in 27 games, but he takes three days off from designated-hitter duties every time he pitches.
While Ohtani will not get a chance to oppose Tanaka on the mound, he'll likely bat against him on Sunday. Ohtani faced Tanaka in 2013 as a 19-year-old rookie in Japan, going 0-for-11 with six strikeouts, a walk and a hit by pitch. Tanaka went 24-0 for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles that year before signing with the Yankees.
"Not so disappointed because I have a pretty good chance of facing him as a hitter," Ohtani said. "Either way, I'll get to face him. Down the road, I'll probably have a chance to face him as a pitcher, also, so I just need to focus on my next game and not think too far ahead."
Garrett Richards is scheduled to start against the Yankees on Sunday in Ohtani's place. Andrew Heaney will pitch Friday's opener, but the Angels' starter for Saturday has yet to be announced.